For Skadi, the christening of a boat always goes hand in hand with the house drink, Ketel1 jenever. The honour of christening the boat went to Niels’ mother and sister. They poured the contents of the bottle over the narrow, yellow boat, while Niels’ friends, family and fellow rowing club members looked on from under their umbrellas. Beside the club’s base on Noorderkanaalweg, Niels’ old team then stepped into the boat. They were given the honour of rowing the first metres in the new boat.

Boats last a long time at the Skadi rowing club. The boathouse still has a number of boats from the late sixties, which are still in use. The honour of having a boat named after them often goes to winners or coaches, but sometimes the christening is in someone’s memory. In this case, it was in honour of Niels, who, in 2021-2022, was a member of the board of the club.

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Niels’s teammates got to do the honours: they were the ones to row the first meters after de christening. Image credit: Hilde Speet

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It was meant to be

“It was meant to be”, says Annemijn de Kleer, president of Skadi, during an interview prior to the christening. The club wanted to name a boat after him in September, but you do not always know in advance which boat will come in when. It looked as though it was going to be a four-seater. “When we heard that this eight was going to come in earlier… well, it was just perfect.”

Niels rowed in an eight in his first year, and his team was the fastest in that year as well. He was also the coach of an eight team. “The eight commands respect in rowing”, says Gilles Luyendijk, former team member and housemate of Niels. “With that many rowers, you really move fast. The competitions are spectacular with so many people at the start. It’s about as cool as it gets.”

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Since Niels’ death, Skadi wants to be an association for everyone more than ever

The wide smile that everyone knew 23-year-old Niels van Rooijen for gradually faded over…


From the winter of 2020/2021, things slowly got worse for Niels. In early summer 2022, Niels’ housemates called the crisis line. They knew things were bad, but not that bad. It was a real shock. Once he got professional help, his housemates hoped that they would all be able to share a house again in September. Just before Eurekaweek, Niels died of suicide.